5 Ways Better FinTech Benefits Your Residents
Payments are the most common and compulsory interactions local governments and utilities have with their customers. Many government agencies and utility providers already focus on process and technology improvements that:
- Promote revenue predictability
- Lower the costs of payment processing
- Steamline revenue management citywide
Many new fintech solutions can both improve operational efficiency and make life easier for your customers. Here are a few ways technology can provide better payment experiences that lead to happy customers.
1. Give customers who pay in person 24/7 neighborhood access
Customers who want or need to pay in person are often out of luck if they miss closing time for City Hall. These are most commonly your cash customers, some of whom may be underbanked, or people who prefer to receive a printed receipt for proof of payment.
Help customers pay in locations close to where they live, eliminating the extra burden of traveling downtown to a single payment location.
- Accept all tender types including cash
- Run via secure cellular network that keeps customer personal identifying information (PII) secure and removes you from PCI security scope
- Provides printed and digital receipts to give customers confidence that their obligation was satisfied
You can put kiosks outside a payment center to extend business hours to 24/7, and in convenient neighborhood locations like libraries, community centers, and grocery stores. These stress-fee payments take under a minute, so customers can quickly pay when and where it’s convenient and get back to other priorities.
“Customers who want or need to pay in person can do so in locations near their homes. This ensures that all residents have equal access to stay current on their important bills,” says Reshma Soni, Comptroller for the City of Chicago. “Anytime you invest in technology, especially technology that brings accessibility and reduces the burden on your constituents, it’s always a win for the city.”
2. Help customers understand what they owe and avoid fees
With integrated payment technology, customers can look up their current balance using any information available in your source system — whether they pay in person or online. The CityBase payment platform integrates to your underlying source systems to power kiosk, web, and point of sale (POS) payment channels, which means your customers will see the same information about their account balance no matter how they find information and pay.
Customers can better manage their payment deadlines or enroll in payment plans to avoid penalty fees, and cash customers are never charged extra fees when they pay on CityBase kiosks.
“We wanted to provide a new payment option that would make it more convenient for customers to pay in person without facing unnecessary fees and delays from a third party, external outlet,” says John Clarkson, Customer Service Officer at KC Water in Kansas City, Missouri. “By having our own KC Water kiosks, we can guarantee payments post instantly, so customers don’t have to worry about their payment being processed on time.”
By using an official payment channel from their local government or utility provider, customers can avoid added fees they’d face by using a third-party service. Customers who pay via Western Union, check-cashing store, or another third party face a whole set of disadvantages:
- They need to know their account number and balance owed offhand, since these third-parties can’t look up their account details for them.
- They are hit with a processing fee that can amount to more than 3% of their bill — this burden cannot be overstated. Customers who need to pay a little toward a utility bill throughout the month are hit with these fees every time they pay. It can amount to upwards of $100+ annually, essentially an unintended tax on your walk-in customers.
- Because of these complicated extra fees, customers can get confused about whether or not they’ve paid their full balance or if they still owe money toward their bill.
3. Give customers a single place to pay all their bills
Whether customers are paying online or in person, modern fintech can give people a single place to make every payment they owe to their city, county, or utility. This orients the payment experience around your customers, rather than making them understand the ins and outs of which government agency manages which payment they owe.
One-stop kiosks provide people with a single physical location to pay for both water and power bills, tickets and taxes, and other common fees. This means that customers who pay in person only need to visit a single location to satisfy all their obligations. This is especially convenient when kiosks are accessible 24/7 to walk-up and drive-through customers.
“Alabama Power provides our customers more convenient self-service options to manage their accounts than ever before, and these new partnerships help our customers easily pay multiple bills at one stop,” says Alvis Wright, Marketing Program Manager at Alabama Power Company, which offers one-stop kiosks with Mobile Area Water and Sewer System as well as with Montgomery Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board.
Integrated cashiering technology similarly allows customers to make payments toward multiple debt types in a single transaction. Cashiers can use point of sale (POS) software to look up any fee, add it to a shopping cart, and check out customers with a single credit card dip.
Online, a secure user profile enables customers to link all their obligations in a single place, where they can view upcoming payments and set notification preferences so they never miss a bill.
4. Help customers stay up to date on recurring payments
Recurring bills like property taxes, water bills, and permit fees can be cumbersome to keep track of. Customers can securely set up a user profile with their local government or utility and store payment methods to check out faster. They can also set recurring automatic payments that process on their billing due date, and are notified before their payment method is billed. At any point, they can log into their account to see upcoming payments, change payment methods, and edit or cancel a recurring payment.
This functionality is easier for your customers, and it makes revenue collection more predictable and efficient for you, removing paper billing and manual processing from the equation.
By providing walk-in customers no-fee, self-service kiosks to pay their bills, you lower the burden to stay current on recurring payments in several ways:
- Customers can pay when it’s convenient to them, without waiting in line or worrying about payment center hours, since kiosks extend service hours.
- Customers can pay a little toward their bill without incurring any fees.
- People making incremental payments can do so without person-to-person interaction, even if they are under-banked without the option to pay online.
“If they were forced to come in and pay a representative and they can’t make that full payment, it’s a little discouraging,” says a Customer Operations Manager at City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri. “Some customers like that anonymity. They walk up to the outdoor kiosks, pay their bill, and go about their day. There’s no judgment if they pay bills multiple times a month.”
5. Empower your customer service representatives with better real-time data
Human-centric, self-service payments help customers satisfy their obligations with the confidence of a real-time confirmation and receipt. This reduces inbound calls from confused customers, as well as walk-in foot traffic for people making straightforward payments.
On the staff side, integrated payment technology gives your staff in customer service and finance a birds’ eye view of the payments that come into your community — in real time — no matter which payment channel a person uses.
CityBase Revenue Management backs all our payment channels. If a customer calls in to ask a question about their payment, or to request a refund, staff can search and filter for a specific transaction based on debt type, billing or funded date, payment method, payment channel, account number, and much more. Then they can take action from the same tool, issuing a void or refund, with returned payments recorded against the original transaction to make reconciliation easier.
By eliminating manual payment processing and more cumbersome reconciliation processes, staff can focus on customer service requests that need more attention.
“Staff don’t need to leave the software to review questions. If someone says, ‘Hey, I paid a specific amount on a specific day,’ we can go into our existing solution and not have to jump to another product,” says Tyler Douthit, Controller & Utility Chief Financial Officer for the City of Lawrence, Indiana. “It has helped staff shift to more of a customer service related role instead of processing payments constantly, and it also has eliminated some time by not having to do all those processes, they can focus on customer service.”